China Masks 2020 presents a set of porcelain facemasks and photographic prints that reflect Scotty So’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne and the 2003 SARs crisis in Hong Kong. To So, wearing masks is just a normal measure to prevent spreading sickness to others but he now notes there is ‘a huge debate and fear in mask wearing during the current COVID–19 pandemic’.
The artist is drawing attention to the fact that masks have become a symbol of fear and led to racial assaults on the Asian community, which adopted mask wearing at the beginning of the pandemic. Through this project, So plays with the similarity in the colours of surgical and N95 masks via jade green celadon hues and other Chinese porcelain traditions. Making porcelain ‘china’ masks, the artist finds beauty and irony in the fragile material when it’s used as safety gear. His accompanying photographic prints are part of an ongoing project to incorporate cloth face masks into ‘fake’ old photos and then upload them on different Wikipedia pages.
The collection has been show at different exhibitions including Triennial 2021, Queer and China: Past is Present at NGV.